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Social Research on Off-Grid Solar conference

GuestBlogger23 December 2015

pencil-icon Written by Iwona Bisaga (PhD student at UCL Urban Sustainability and Resilience)

Off-grid solar

Image: SolarAid

The Social Research on Off-Grid Solar (SROGS) conference took place at UCL on 9 and 10 December. It was jointly organised by Declan Murray (School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh) and I.

This two-day event saw speakers and attendees from a diverse range of disciplines get together to discuss a variety of themes around off-grid solar solutions for energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America. Presenters included academics, PhD students, private sector representatives, policy makers, practitioners, physicists and engineers, which provided a solid overview of the sector and the challenges it is (and has been) facing since it came to prominence in the 1990s.

The series of presentations and breakout group discussions focused on existing business models and technology designs, linking them to the user experience and the ways in which users and customers are included in (or excluded from) those processes, and how that could be changed to better reflect their needs and aspirations throughout the whole value chain: from product design to after-sales services and dealing with solar waste.

Socio-economic impacts and what they mean for the users, including women and marginalised communities as particularly vulnerable groups, were given a lot of attention, though it quickly became clear that there still remains a lot to be done in order to fully understand what actual impacts off-grid solar has on users, and how exactly it is utilised within households.

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Could this be the way to get your research into the public eye?

GuestBlogger15 December 2015

pencil-icon  Written by Olivia Stevenson & Greg Tinker with Michael Kenny, Catherine Miller & Graeme Reid

Scientists and researchers from across academia are engaged in research that could make a difference to the world, but until you take it beyond the university doors its impact and reach will remain low.

Select Committee noticeUCL and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary, University of London, teamed up to host a public event with parliamentary insiders and evidence experts, exploring how academia could engage the world of government, particularly through select committees.

The question on everyone’s mind was ‘can this type of academic-government engagement generate real world impacts?’ Here is what our speakers told us:

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The divestment debate: should UCL sell up?

GuestBlogger8 April 2015

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Written by Brigid Marriott, Faculty Communications Officer, UCL Laws

As calls for fossil fuel divestment grow, universities across the world are being forced to consider the management of their endowments. Stanford, Glasgow and Sydney universities have already begun the process of full or partial divestment from fossil fuels.

Oxford has decided to defer its decision on the issue, while Harvard is preparing to fight a lawsuit – brought by its own students – to try to force the university to drop its direct investments in coal, oil and gas companies.

Fiddlers Ferry power station

Fiddlers Ferry power station, Cheshire (credit: Alan Godfrey)

On Tuesday 24 March, the Guardian newspaper published a letter from UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres to her alma mater, Swarthmore College, calling on the college’s administration to decarbonise its investment portfolio.

That same evening, six experts from across UCL gathered to debate whether the institution should do the same and sell off its £21 million investment in fossil fuel companies.

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Lunch Hour Lecture: Protecting users’ privacy in modern web applications

KilianThayaparan18 February 2015

Cyber security robot“This thing will never take off,” Professor Brad Karp (UCL Computer Science) jokingly recalls himself saying about the World Wide Web when the concept was first introduced to him in the 1990s. Yet since its introduction, when websites were simply static documents, it has gone on to be of incredible value to people across the globe.

The evolution of the World Wide Web has led to an increasing focus on web applications, or ‘apps’, and with this has come a problematic conflict between privacy and functionality. It is this conflict that formed the basis of Professor Karp’s Lunch Hour Lecture, as he put forward a solution to end this “unpalatable trade-off”.

According to Professor Karp, the issue has arisen as a result of the Web’s original architecture; designers were thinking about privacy when building the Web, but this same approach has restricted the creation of web applications. To get around such restrictions, developers need to work outside of this architecture and subsequently compromise on privacy.

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